Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders
There must be something about Wyoming at this time of year.
Several participants at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit held in Washington this week said they were heading out West — but declined to say what was taking them so far from hard-nosed airline investors and Pentagon accountants.
But the aviation head honchos tend to shy away from talking about it.
“I like Wyoming very much in the beginning of fall — a beautiful area,” was all we could get from one multinational corporation chief.
“It’s a meeting,” growled the head of a top engine maker.
To explain the rush, industry officials familiar with the matter suggested the curious should look no further than a venerable club known as the “Conquistadores del Cielo.”
Each year, according to people who have attended the event in the past, the ‘conquerors of the skies’ temporarily set aside their differences in one of the world’s most cut-throat industries and head to the Cowboy State for informal bonding.
Michael Strianese, President and CEO of L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., is a roll up the sleeves kind of guy who likes nothing better than a close-up look at airplanes and wiring and sensors. And he’s not even an engineer.
“What do I like to do? I like to get down on the factory floor with the guys and crawl around airplanes and look at wiring and figure out how things work. So for somebody with a finance background, I think that surprises people,” he said at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit.
It might well have been the business divorce of the year, but it seems there are no hard feelings between the heads of defense contractors Northrop Grumman and jilted European partner EADS.
The companies had been bidding together to challenge Boeing for a deal worth up to $50 billion to supply aerial tankers to the Air Force. But Northrop pulled out in March leaving EADS, the Franco-German parent company of Airbus, to bid alone.
Northrop Grumman CEO and President Wes Bush (no relation to the former president) says there’s a message in moving the company headquarters across the country to a suburb of Washington from Los Angeles.
“I absolutely believe it’s something that we need to do and will be very good for our company,” Bush said at a Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit.
Boeing Defense, Space and Security President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg speaks eloquently about defense cycles, but did you know that he is something of a cyclist who typically rides about 100 miles a week?
The give away was the glowing tan he was sporting when speaking at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit.
Lockheed Martin Corp. CEO Robert Stevens, who turns 59 years old tomorrow, says he learns every day from the new generation at the defense company he heads — although he still doesn’t IM.
The son of a Pennsylvania steelworker who enlisted in the Marines instead of college, later completing his education on the GI program, says, “I am one of the luckiest people you are going to meet.”
As President Barack Obama sends more troops to Afghanistan, and the Pentagon is expected to increase orders of armored trucks, helicopters, ammunition and other weaponry, Reuters specialist journalists are talking to some of the biggest names in the aerospace and defense industries.
Among those who will be speaking to us this coming week: Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens, US Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, and L-3 Communications Holdings CEO Michael Strianese.
And for Boeing Co’s customers, saving cash is becoming increasingly important.
It’s long been one of the great mysteries of the defense game about whether companies that make a lot of the stuff used for defense and security, might be able to ratchet down their pricing when, economically at least, it was a rainy day.